With venom rising in her throat, a woman picked up her long hair, setting her dark braids in motion. “Don’ be expectin’ me to pay dis fare when yuh ha inconvenienced me in dis way.” Sitting next to her was a young boy who bobbed and jerked his head to stare at the passing village.
Another, older woman from the back of the bus chimed in. “I ha my rights and yuh ha yuhr rights.” The bus driver waved his hand in protest and kept driving. A slightly bemused look crossed his face, visible to me in the rear view mirror.
The older woman was incensed. We had taken a three-minute detour without notice and our bus driver had received a tip. The gloves were off. With the younger woman still twitching and smoothing her hair at the front of the bus, the older woman let the bus driver have it, ” I’m gonna pull yuhr intestines out through yuhr nostrils. Bitch.”
“Momma,” my daughter Karen whispered. I looked back to see her. “That lady just said the B-word”.
The bus drove in silence for about five minutes. Then, the driver stopped and let the two women out along with the young boy. Little was said. And, no fare was requested or offered. On the bus went.
I enjoy taking the public bus in Grenada. Bus #2 takes us from the village of Woburn through twisty roads, past small enclaves, across green hills, around harbours, and past random goats until we’ve reach the central city of St. George’s.
In St. George’s, we can buy groceries, fresh produce, clothing, shoes, spices, and marine supplies. We can also visit the library. Some of the market vendors are very friendly, and recognize our family. There’s an authenticity and warmth amongst the vendors that goes well beyond a public relations act involving cabbage and mangoes.
But, to stay on track, I will write about St. George’s market, the amazingly fresh cinnamon, and my strategies for haggling another time.
This blog post is about Grenadian buses. The buses are small, passenger utility vans with five rows of bench seats. To the best of my knowledge, I have not been on a Grenadian bus with air conditioning. When it rains, and the windows are shut, it can be stifling.
Passengers ride next to the driver, on the bench seats, and in fold-out seats in the aisles. Children often sit on laps. Our family of six can compress onto a single bench seat if necessary. On one occasion, I have been on a bus that was carrying 24 people.
The buses play music, often soca music, sometimes at deafening levels. Today was unusual because the driver (and all the passengers) were listening to a sermon about Jesus giving sight to the blind.
The driver is usually accompanied by a man who scouts for passengers, and collects fares. There are some bus stops. But, basically, anyone who appears to be waiting anywhere on the route is fair game to be honked or shouted at for business. To exit the bus you knock on the ceiling and the driver usually stops immediately. Much like a crowded elevator, sometimes people have to get off the bus to let other people out.
I could tell you about the mothers on the bus, or the gorgeous hairstyles, or the helpful people who have offered to sit with my bags in the bus. But, no. I’d like to tell you about the things that you just don’t see in our hometown of Ottawa, Canada.
The best example would be the man who got on the bus with a chainsaw with no protective cover. They entire chain blade was exposed. He sat at the front of the bus, in the middle seat, right next to the bus driver. Then there was the man who I sat beside, a manspreader, who slung his arm about our seat, while casually drinking an open beer.
What about the drama that I bring to a bus in Grenada?
I usually carry at least two large shopping bags. My challenge is to compress myself and my kids without losing a tin can or bag of potatoes. And my children, darlings that they are, travel like any other kids when they are crammed together with no seat belts. They like to feel the wind in their faces. And, while I haven’t yet complained to a driver about taking detours, I have been known to say “Get off your brother,” and “Arms in please!”